Getting slower

Looking for some suggestions on where I can go for some advice on my current running performance issues. I don't think I really need a coach as I know what I should be doing, I am just after some science based, one-off advice and I'm happy to pay for it if appropriate.

I am a very keen runner, have been for many years, but I have been experiencing quite a significant fall-off in my performance in recent months.

As a bit of background:

53 years old
Running for about 30 years

PBs in past 2-ish years
5K: 23:11 (Jun-20) and more recently 24:00 (May-21)
10K: 47:57 (Jun-20)
HM: 1:51:40 (Apr-21)
Mara: 3:50:18 (Sep-18) (4 subsequent marathons which were all much slower for various reasons; my last one, just over a week ago was dreadful, my slowest ever (>5 hours) in spite of running to heart rate at least initially)

I run 40-60 miles per week over 4-5 sessions. Typically 1 day speedwork (reps), 1 fast 5K, 1 long run and others recovery pace.

In Jun 20 my average 'recovery' (HR 145 bpm) pace over 8-9 miles was 9:15 min/mile
I was injured in August and out a month but in Dec 20 my recovery pace was at around 9:40 min/mile
I had Covid (mild) at end of December so out for nearly 2 weeks
And then an ankle injury in March and out for another few weeks
In Apr 21 recovery pace was around 9:50 min/mile
No further injuries so I have been training consistently since then.
Recovery pace is now over 10:00 min/mile (and seems to be continuing to head in the wrong direction).

I have had a recent full blood test done for other reasons) and while some of the indicators are quite low they are generally OK and not different from my usual profile, I generally have rubbish blood ;-)

My sleeping and eating habits haven't changed. My resting heart rate is fairly steady (around 56bpm).

Does anyone know of a resource who sould be willing to take a look at the above and/or my stats (via Garmin connect or Strava) and offer some advice on where I might be going wrong.


  • I'd be interested as well as I'm in a similar boat...female, 54...I was going from strength to strength before the lockdown (in 2019 I PB'd every distance except 10K, which I then PB'd in Jan 20) but then had a run of injuries and my paces have dropped off a cliff. I'm a little slower than Agnes but in the same ballpark (24:07 5K, 1:52:56 HM, 3:57:08 marathon). My old easy paced runs were 10:30-40 and are now well over 11. 5K pace is around 27 mins.
    I've not had Covid to my knowledge although I had a gum infection this year and felt very poorly after I came off the antibiotics so that was another couple of weeks out.
  • HI Cal, thanks for responding and I'm sorry you are going through the same thing. It is soooo frustrating cause I am doing everything right (at least in theory) and in 30 years of running this particular pattern has never happened to me. I have had time off for various reasons (generally injuries) but I always am able to build it back. Also I realise that I am getting older but I was doing decent times just over 12 months ago. I am genuinely mystified.
  • It's exactly the same for me. We're neither of us young but given I ran a 5K PB on my 53rd birthday (one of those virtual club not a real race with chip timing, unfortunately) I can't imagine I've suddenly succumbed to age in a single year. I've had time outs for injury before and have always managed to come back (and stronger), but it's a lot slower this time for some reason. My sleep is crap, but it's always been crap so can't really put the blame on that.
    Do you think it might be down to a run of injuries/health issues combined with a lack of racing, perhaps?
  • GuarddogGuarddog ✭✭✭
    I've mentioned this on the 'Last Run' thread. I went through much the same thing. Last year I did a 5K PB, convinced I'd have done a 10K PB, if there'd been an event, and finished off 2020 doing an HM PB.

    Started the year with an achilles issue which took a few weeks to resolve and my performance back then was very much a case of trying to build up confidence that the thing wouldn't go again. That was fine and although the pace of last year wasn't there at least I was doing up to 18K in preparation for a half. Then as above my fitness went. I struggled to do a couple of miles. As soon as I started to run I'd struggle for breath and my legs would ache.

    As you did, Agnes, I went to the doctor and had blood tests which similarly showed nothing to be concerned about. A theory I put forward was that I was suffering some reaction to the vaccination. I had my second on the 6th of June and felt my performance dropped off shortly after that. Similarly my partner, who had hers two weeks after I did and was leaving me for dead in that period, also started to suffer with it. The doctor didn't shoot the theory down in flames and said there were still affects from it that we don't fully know about. I'm by no means of the 'anti-vaxxer' ilk and am pleased I've had it, but it was really the only explanation I could come up with.

    I'm now getting back to somewhere near where I'd hope to be in terms of endurance, and speed is slowly getting there. The main issue has been one of confidence, knowing that a run is not going to leave you feeling awful and wondering if it's worth it.

    In that instance I found it helpful thinking not what I'd lost, but that I'm still getting out there. And that as you've built back before you definitely can again.
  • GD, out of interest, which vaccine did you and your partner get? Like most middle aged peeps, I got AZ.

    Just ran my worst HM since 2015 (and mid 2015 as the ones I ran from September on were wall better than the one I did today) - just couldn't get my legs to turn over and got progressively slower. It was demoralising. I've gone from running a half in 1:52:56 (October 19 and then the exact same time in Jan 20) to 2:08.25. It feels like I've lost six years of progress in one hit.
  • GuarddogGuarddog ✭✭✭
    It was AZ as well, Cal. I've heard a few more instances of people who have much the same experience and possibly like the virus itself it perhaps affects us in different ways.

    Read about your HM experience on the other thread. Don't worry too much about it, just put it down to one of those experiences. I sometimes think the first HM of a season is a 'sighter' and you then start to improve. I know when I did the 12 in 12 a couple of years back the difference between my first HM and my last was 15 mins.
  • Hmm. I had AZ as well but I really didn't feel too bad from it and my May (reasonable-paced) 5K was after my second so I suspect that it a red herring at least in my case. Let's face it almost all adults in our age group will have had 2 jabs in that time period so I suspect more correlation than causation...
    Did a long run this morning and still struggling to maintain anything like my previous 'easy' pace (about 1 min/mile slower actually), sigh. I realise it is a bit of a first world problem and I am absolutely grateful to be able to run but still can't help feeling a bit grumpy about it!
  • MrM2MrM2 ✭✭✭
    Like others on this thread, I'm looking for a way to get back to something near where I was, at the start of the year. Double jabbed but hadn't even considered that as a factor. I'm a good minute down (per mile) but have got some endurance returning. I had 4 months out due to Sciatica. 'Resorting' to a walk/run approach on some of my runs. Not so much 'resorting' as trying to find a way to get some pace improvement. Now managing a slow half marathon (11min/mile) and a slow parkrun (10min/mile...almost!). 
    Best Wishes to all! 
  • I can identify with this so well.  Turned 50 a couple of years ago and won the MV50 sections of a couple of local races in quick succession. I’d looking forward to turning 50 to attack a new age grade. Then I got a knee injury, a few months later I developed piriformis syndrome. I’ve been slowing building up mileage but my speed is totally absent. What was 8 mins/mile is now 10. I’ve started doing speed work and intervals for the first time in my life with any kind of consistency and trying to do appropriate stretches to free up a still very stiff posterior chain on one side and keeping my fingers crossed. At least I do keep reminding myself that I’m still running after 40 years!
  • With muscle mass loss being a 'thing' as we age (particulary for those going north of 40 years of age), it may be worth considering some strength and conditioning work if you're in your 50's ?
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